As summer comes to end, families across the country are gearing up for the return of school. Notebooks, pencils, class schedules, carpools — there’s quite a bit to organize before a new semester. At Commercial Truck Trader, we’ve decided to go back to school, too, and have put together this list of tidy reminders for both new truckers and those simply looking for a refresher course in the basics.
Here is Commercial Truck Trader’s Back to School Checklist:
Enrollment: Kids enroll in school; truckers earn their Commercial Driver License. If you’re new to trucking, earning your CDL involves…
- submitting your CDL application and paying the application fee;
- proving your identity, social security number, and proof of state and U.S. residency;
- submitting completed medical exam forms;
- passing tests for vision and knowledge;
- passing a pre-trip inspection and the road skills and driving examination; and
- paying the fee for your new CDL.
For those who already have a CDL, be sure to have your required physicals to keep the license valid and keep tabs on when it expires (most CDLs are valid between 5 to 8 years, depending on the state). CDL renew can happen in person, by mail, or online, depending on your state.
Schedule: Kids have a schedule of classes; truckers have routes. Being late to a class may have gotten you detention, but missing arrival times can eventually cost you your job. Be sure to map out your schedule and route ahead of time, expect to encounter traffic and construction delays, and keep your vehicle well-maintained to avoid breakdowns.
Rules: Kids have school policies; truckers have traffic laws and other informal rules of the road. Especially in the interest of safety, always wear your seatbelt, follow traffic signs and speed limits, and follow DOT hours of service regulations. As for the informal rules of the road, you’ll pick many of them up as you go, but a few include:
- If you need to go inside at a fuel station after pumping your gas, move your truck away from the fuel pump and into a parking spot, making room for other truckers.
- If you’re in a truck stop at night, drive slowly and keep your headlights dim or off once parked.
- Giving a friendly wave or saying hello on the CB when passing a fellow trucker helps everyone feel like they’re part of a community, even when alone in the cab.
Recess: Kids play kickball at recess; truckers should exercise each day. Every driver knows that sitting in the cab all day doesn’t help keep your body fit and trim. There are simple exercises every trucker can do on the road to stay healthy, including sit-ups, walking or jogging, cycling, push-ups, stretching or yoga, and even strength training with dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands. There are also many exercise-focused apps you can download to your mobile device to track your progress or stream fitness classes.
The Cafeteria: Kids have lunch in the cafeteria; truckers have a cab with a few appliances. After months of eating fast food, which isn’t great for your health, many truckers start to miss their dear old lunch lady from school. Fortunately, creating quick, easy, and tasty meals on the road isn’t that hard! Invest in a few appliances — such as an electric skillet, hot-plate, soup-pot, blender, microwave, and/or slow-cooker — and look up recipes for truckers and you can find lots of options that can keep you satisfied on the road.
Your Locker: Kids decorate their lockers; truckers can make their cabs more homey. To feel more at home in your cab, invest in some decorations and fun accessories, like seat covers, wheel covers, and floor mats. Get comfortable with a new seat cushion for the driver’s seat and a memory foam mattress-topper for your bed. Bring home along with you, whether it’s packing your favorite home-cooked meals, playing music that reminds you of home, or bringing your pet along for the ride!
Passing Notes: Kids pass notes; truckers call home. Phone-calls, texts, social media, Skype/Facetime, letters, and/or postcards can all help drivers keep in touch with friends and family back home. Any trucker can tell you that maintaining positive relationships contributes to lower stress, more happiness, and greater life-satisfaction.
Homework: Kids have homework; truckers have multiple resources for ongoing learning. All the time spent driving is a great opportunity to listen to audiobooks from your favorite authors. Time not driving is also good for additional reading or even taking online classes (about our industry, or any other subject in which you’re interested!).
You may be glad to have graduated, but there are always “Back to School” fundamentals that are worth remembering. We hope this list of basic tips is handy for any new trucker or driver who needed a refresher course, and will contribute to making your life better out there on the road. Class dismissed!
About the Author
Ethan Smith is a Content Curator for Trader Interactive, serving the commercial brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to commercial dealers and their buyers.